In his last summer, in a burst of impossible energy, Santa Cruz writer Jory Post wrote an essay every day. Post passed away in January from pancreatic cancer, and now several of his fellow writers have compiled his last pieces into a new volume of brief, tough, elegiac bursts. Titled Daily Fresh, this compilation of short pieces—fictional riffs, dreams, memories, eccentricities—pulses with the green flash at the author’s sunset. Sex, enemies, regrets, joys—nothing is off limits. Post gives us meditations on the word “verve,” the merits of the Gregorian calendar, a beloved editor he scolds as “Ms. Bossy Pants.” It is irresistible stuff, crisply observed.
With a Zoom launch for the book coming up on Friday, Nov. 12, I asked its editors to reflect on bringing Daily Fresh to life.
Kathryn Chetkovich: “I heard the pieces that make up Daily Fresh as they were being written—hearing the week’s catch was one of the agenda items of our regular Sunday morning visits—and I always looked forward to seeing how the various incidents and preoccupations of the week would get spun into the fabric of a fresh but finished essay. How Jory could begin with a single word, a memory, a “lightbulb” note in his journal, or an event in the world, and literally make something of it.
“In ‘A Shift in Focus,’ this double focus is explicit. The piece takes off from the ‘cold steel shaft piercing your brain behind the left eye,’ and it uses that intensely felt pain as ‘an entry into creativity.’ Taking that very process as its focus, the essay describes how it’s done—how it’s possible (sometimes) to ‘use the invasion as a starting point . . . have it connect to your brain and begin spewing words and thoughts from your fingers until sentences form.’ Soon we’re looking at the jay at the feeder and wondering about its navigational skills, and from there it’s on to the upcoming presidential election and a quick google search of the distance to Loma Prieta, which in turns leads to a childhood memory. The piece goes ‘sideways’ in ways that are classic Jory. And all the while, there’s his own awareness of just what he’s doing, using writing as a practice to both distract and focus his own mind. ‘Yes, this is really your only option today and every other day you have left,’ he writes. ‘So continue.’”
Paul Skenazy: “Editing Daily Fresh offered surprise after surprise. I knew a few of the essays from emails Jory wrote me in the summer of 2020 when he was at work on these pieces. Each one offered Jory the chance to wonder what he was wondering about, and to see where that wonder took him. Each essay looks at a different subject, often in startling ways. But there are continuities as well. Jory was dying; the chemo treatments were wearing him down; he had lost weight; he was in constant pain. The pandemic continued, isolating him from friends and family. His mother’s health was failing. The CZU fires raged; suddenly he and his wife Karen welcomed the newly homeless—four adults, two children, and three pets—into their home. These events commanded Jory’s attention, but don’t obstruct his view of the day, fresh if not always festive, before him. While primarily housebound, his mind and imagination traveled: to a childhood baseball game he loved to play, to learning to swim, to fried egg sandwiches, golf, his life as a teacher, friends named and anonymous. These characters, memories, and encounters offered the jumping off points for one leap of faith after another—each a daily effort to find, create, and maintain a curiosity about, as he titles one essay, ‘What’s Next?’”
Elizabeth McKenzie: “These essays represent so many facets of Jory’s incredible mind. But I’ll pick one. In ‘December 7, 1932—Santa Catalina,’ Jory admits to a fascination with small town papers and a website where they are archived. He lands on a date near to that of his mother’s birth, and soon we’re immersed in everything to do with Santa Catalina island the week of December 7, 1932. With Jory as our guide, we learn that the Cubs were holding their winter training there, that game fishers could have their catches taxidermied with ease, that the Hotel St. Catherine hosted a weekly ‘Avalon Night’ featuring a .65 cent buffet, that a collection of stories by Washington Irving was added to the high school library, that after a week’s stay the Barrymore’s left on their yacht, and that a Mrs. Orr was knocked down and seriously bruised by a large dog.
“In every one of these essays in Daily Fresh, Jory demonstrates his delight in unearthing the esoteric; he finds meaning in things others might overlook. And he communicates that delight and makes it contagious. Ordinary things become singular under his gaze. Jory read some of these essays to me on the very days they were written. I was amazed, as always, by his first draft skills, and emotionally in awe of his spirit. And it’s a privilege to be helping to bring out such meaningful literary work.”
There will be a launch party for ‘Daily Fresh’ (Paper Angel Press) on Zoom Forward on Friday, Nov. 12 from 5 to 6 pm. To register, go to santacruzwrites.org/events.